Filling Buckets: 6 Books About Happiness for Children


One of the things I want for my kids more than anything else is happiness.  But how do you teach a child to be happy?  Happiness is a choice, but there are things that will help make that choice easier.

My daughter came home from her first week of kindergarten with a bucket made out of construction paper and the encouragement to “fill a bucket”.  When I asked her about it, she told me about a book that her teacher read to the class about kindness toward others.  The book was called Have You Filled a Bucket Today? and I’ve noticed that she’s made a conscious effort since then to be kind.

Since I was already a fan of the books, it was no work to convince me to review them.  I’m really excited to share them with you!

For more information on bucket filling and free downloadables and resources, visit 

For Babies (Board Book):

Baby’s Bucket Book by Carol McCloud, illustrated by Glenn Zimmer

This colorful, rhyming board book starts the process of teaching infants and toddlers that they each have their very own invisible bucket. The book illustrates how happy a little one is with a bucket full of love and light and how sad when something causes that love and light to disappear. You’ll quickly see that the love and light in a baby’s bucket is the joyous result of simple, caring interactions that fulfill a baby’s essential needs for security, love, belonging, independence and fun.

My Thoughts:
Your child is never too young to start learning the importance of being kind to others and the benefits that come from it.  This rhyming board book starts children on the concept of bucket filling and helps them understand that as they love and laugh, everyone’s bucket gets filled.

The illustrations are bright and colorful and there are just a few words on each page, so babies will remain interested all the way through.  It’s a great start for baby’s library!


For Toddlers/Preschoolers:

Fill a Bucket: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children

This award-winning prequel to Have You Filled a Bucket Today? is the perfect gift for anyone with little ones they love.  When children have their buckets filled and learn how they can fill other people’s buckets too, they understand how special, valuable, and capable they are.

Winner of Four Awards:

2008 – Top 10 Children’s Books, Best You Can Be Foundation
2009 – Gold Medal, Children’s Picture Books, Developing Social Skills, Mom’s Choice Awards
2013 – Honorable Mention, Family Matters Books, Purple Dragonfly Book Awards
2013 – Honorable Mention, Picture Books – 5 & Younger, Purple Dragonfly Book Awards

My Thoughts:
This is a short introduction to the concept of bucket filling and a prequel to the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today?  It talks about how everyone carries an invisible bucket and how children can fill them up.  It mentions things like hugs, smiles, sharing toys, and saying “please” and “thank you”.  When your bucket is full, you feel happy, but you feel sad when it’s empty.

This is a good primer on the concept of bucket filling and helps young children understand that when you do something nice for someone else, it makes both of you happy.


For Preschoolers and Lower Elementary:

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud, illustrated by David Messing

Through simple prose and vivid illustrations, this heartwarming book encourages positive behavior as children see how rewarding it is to express daily kindness, appreciation, and love. Bucket filling and dipping are effective metaphors for understanding the effects of our actions and words on the well being of others and ourselves.

My Thoughts:
This is the original bucket book and my personal favorite.  Quite a few kindergarten teachers in this area are using this book in their classrooms.  I also took it to church and read it to my class of six year olds.  It explains the concept of bucket filling and tells kids the importance of having a full bucket.  It gives them ideas on how to fill other people’s buckets and keep their own bucket full as well.  It also goes into bucket dipping, or trying to steal someone else’s happiness.  Bucket dipping never works because when you empty someone else’s happiness bucket, yours empties too.

This is a fantastic book for young children and it teaches a valuable life lesson about kindness.  The kinder we are to others, the happier everyone will be.  This is a great book for the classroom or at home.


Bucket Filling from A to Z: The Key to Being Happy by Carol McCloud and Caryn Butzke, illustrated by Glenn Zimmer

Bucket Filling from A to Z uses the letters of the alphabet to help young and old see the many, simple ways that they can fill buckets and fill their own buckets in return. When you help children become bucket fillers, you give them the key to happiness…for it is in friendship, love, and good will to others that we are truly happy. Yes, bucket filling is the moment by moment choice to be kind and caring. Teaching and encouraging children to be bucket fillers is one of the greatest gifts you can give to them.

My Thoughts:
This is the ABCs of kindness.  Each letter is dedicated to a different way you can fill a bucket and be happy.  G is for give, R is for respect, and so on.  I really liked the things the authors came up with to fill the alphabet.  It works well with the theme and teaches kids good qualities and positive traits.  It’s a wonderful companion book to the other bucket books.


Will You Fill My Bucket? Daily Acts of Love Around the World by Carol McCloud and Karen Wells, illustrated by Penny Weber

A simple question, Will You Fill My Bucket?, is fervently asked by children from twelve different countries. In this award-winning, 32-page picture book, sweet rhyming prose, repetition, and vividly captivating illustrations delight the senses and express the deep joy and love we hope for all children.

Will You Fill My Bucket? and the responses given will touch the heartstrings of people young and old around the world.  Bucket filling, the essence of being loved and loving others, occurs in those little moments in a day when you stop and just listen, cuddle, play, or spend time with a child.

My Thoughts:
This book is written in rhyme and has some of my favorite illustrations out of the series.  There is just one line per page, so it’s quick to read. Each line is very similar, so reading it out loud gets repetitive.  I liked how each picture featured a different part of the world.  This book is mostly about acts of love within the family, specifically between parents and children.  It’s a nice addition to the series and a good companion to the other bucket books.


For Middle Grade Kids (ages 8 and up):

Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life by Carol McCloud, illustrated by Penny Weber

Do you know you have an invisible bucket which is filled with all of your good thoughts and feelings?  If you’re new to the concepts of bucket filling and bucket dipping, then this award-winning book is for you.  This award-winning sequel to Have You Filled a Bucket Today? features easy-to-read chapters, colorful illustrations, and daily questions to help readers become better bucket fillers and give them the tools to live a life filled with happiness.

My Thoughts:
This book is for older children in upper elementary and middle school.  It delves deeper into the concept of bucket filling and dipping.  It talks about things like bullying, accidental or thoughtless bucket dipping, and when having an empty bucket isn’t your fault.  It discusses ways for kids to keep their buckets full and avoid things that will empty their buckets (like cheating and cyberbullying).  It also talks about developing talents, working hard, and standing up for others.

I love the concept of an invisible bucket that everyone carries with them.  It’s a great lesson for kids of all ages to learn.  This book helps kids understand the basic concepts of kindness and honesty and how they will help increase their happiness. 


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